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Laila's Birthday2008

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  • 4.0
The Gaza-born director Rashid Mashawari captures the absurdity of the Palestinian situation in this comically deadpan, stop-and-start "road trip" through the land of checkpoints and barriers. A former judge who still retains his regal bearing, Abu Laila (the stone-faced Mohamed Bakri, a Palestinian Buster Keaton) must now drive a taxi in order to make ends meet. His customers are a motley cross-section of Ramallah citizens: a young Romeo who hires out the taxi to have a place "alone" with his lover; a housewife who'll stop anywhere there's a free-food giveaway ("Is this Fatah? Hamas? Who knows; I just saw a line and got in"), armed militia members (to which Abu Laila points out the helpful "NO SMOKING" and "NO AK-47s" sign in the windshield) and, in one dramatically complicated case, an ex-convict who leaves his cell phone in the cab. Our harried hero is also trying to regain a position as a government judge (his frequent trips to the Ministry of Justice are both comical and heart-breaking) and, today at least, HE needs a birthday cake for his daughter. Using Abu Laila's travails as a window into contemporary Palestine, Mashawari reveals a situation both more complicated than one could image yet also far more universally human. Most of all, he captures the surprising beauty of Ramallah ("I wanted the city to be a character and different from the way others have depicted it before," he notes) and the unshakable spirit of its people through Abu Laila’s needlessly over-complicated life. "We are in a mess," he says. "Through him we can face ourselves as Palestinians and where we are going in all this." - Jason Sanders

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3 members like this review

A taxi driver tries to make it through the day of eccentric customers while the dark shadow of occupation hangs overhead. The constant display of disorder, injustice, and meaningless suffering to himself and those around him wears the ex-judge thin. The absurdity of daily life under violent colonization efforts is mirrored in this quest to get a cake for his daughter.

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Member Reviews (9)

231766.small
top reviewer

A taxi driver tries to make it through the day of eccentric customers while the dark shadow of occupation hangs overhead. The constant display of disorder, injustice, and meaningless suffering to himself and those around him wears the ex-judge thin. The absurdity of daily life under violent colonization efforts is mirrored in this quest to get a cake for his daughter.

3 members like this review

A simple portrayal of the chaotic life one must live day to day as a Palestinian living in the occupied territories.

1 member likes this review
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This is a marvelous film that delves into the complex and chaotic world of the average citizen in Palestine. Abu Laila is a judge out of work and trying to regain his job in the government while driving a taxi cab which he has borrowed from his wife’s brother. The film follows him through an arduous day which includes odd ball customers, his taxi breaking down, and a street bombing, All the while he is trying to buy a birthday present and cake for his young daughter for their family celebration that evening. It’s a captivating journey made all the more compelling by virtue of the outstanding performance of Mohammed Bakri who generates a poignant characterization all the while maintaining an overall façade of stoicism.

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top reviewer

interesting_more annoying then funny_but a sweet end

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top reviewer

Def. worth watching.

This is one of my favorite films because of how painstakingly it illustrates the situation in Ramallah through the tedious, sometimes funny, sometimes horrendous situations that a taxi driver finds himself in on an average day. The script is very well written and it weaves through complexity well - except in the scenes which include the main character's wife and daughter, who are not given adequate complexity and feel like props made to show his softer side. I gave it 5 stars anyway because it's an important film and the world needs to see more of Palestine.

I thought at the end the guy was going to shave his mustache, other than that good film.

Maybe trying for a comedy isn't the best way to show life under a brutal Occupation. Still, there is a lot of heart and a good ending.

beautiful portrait of a Fellini-sque/Almadovar day of an ex-judge working temporarily as a taxi driver. From numerous situations to unlikely sequences this day keeps getting worse and worse and yet at the end it all comes together. Great movie,